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I Think Pacific Rim Ruined Godzilla for Me

I went to see Godzilla last night on a hot date with myself. I dressed up nice, wore black stockings and blue lipstick along with my Gipsy Danger shirt, and treated myself to a movie and cheese sticks.

While I do enjoy hot dates with myself from time to time, I realized after I finished the film and drove home that I needed someone to sound off to. Because while I ended up liking the film and it was certainly better than that 1998 one, there were so many things about it that bothered me the more I thought about it. Maybe because I was so spoiled by Pacific Rim last year that the things that bothered me about it, I kept comparing to how Pacific Rim did it.

This is a list of all my grievances about the film compared to things I enjoyed in Pacific Rim. Note that this is only my opinion and I would still suggest seeing the film. Also, SPOILERS AHEAD FOR GODZILLA. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

GO GO GODZILLA! [hdiwallpapers.com]

GO GO GODZILLA! [hdiwallpapers.com]

1.) Godzilla was barely in the damn thing – Say what you will about Pacific Rim, but the film delivered on the trailer promise of giant robots punching giant monsters in the face. Which, hey, made me enjoy it on a base level even without the cast and storyline. If you call a film Godzilla, I kind of expect him to be there more than the MUTOs that were trying to destroy San Francisco with their mating and radioactive babies. When Godzilla was on screen kicking MUTO ass and telling those damn teenage kaiju to get off his lawn, it was amazing! But there wasn’t enough of it.

2.) Everything the Navy did was basically what the Pan Pacific Defense Corps learned not to do – I kept jokingly referring to the film as “The Pan Pacific Defense Corps: The Early Years” in my head. I know that they don’t have a lot of experience dealing with ancient creatures from beneath the sea sucking on radiation to survive, but how do these people really think “Shoot bullets at the giant monster while people taking refuge from a tsunami stand nearby. That’ll slow it down.” There’s a reason the Jaeger program exists and it’s because it was assessed to do the least amount of damage and be more cost effective in the long run than trying to have the army shoot down a kaiju in a three day battle and irradiate a metropolitan area to the point no one could live there anymore. At least there was some damn sense to take the bomb attempt as far away from land as possible. You know, if it had worked. Which brings me to my next point…

3.) Does no one listen to scientists? – I understand that Dr. Serizawa was working on a hypothesis that Godzilla was the alpha predator coming ashore to fight the MUTOs and establish his dominance. He had no way to confirm it until the very end of the film when that’s actually what happened. However, you think with how many times Serizawa and Dr. Graham said the monsters feed off of radiation, you think the Navy would want to come up with a better plan besides “Put some old bombs that run on clockwork on a train to San Francisco, then put them on a boat as far as we can possibly get.” I mean, they were also working on a hypothesis that the force from the blast would kill them instead of the radiation making them stronger. Or the radiation from the bomb attracting one of the MUTOs to the train. You think when you’re dealing with people who have studied these creatures for YEARS, you might want to consult them on plans for minimal damage to both the city and your men.

Poor Serizawa. He had this look on his face that said 'The Sound of Silence' should have been playing anytime he was on screen. [everythingkaiju.com]

Poor Serizawa. He had this look on his face that said ‘The Sound of Silence’ should have been playing anytime he was on screen. [everythingkaiju.com]

4.) The film doesn’t even pass the Sexy Lamp Test – I know it’s a huge point of contention over Pacific Rim and the Bechdel Test. And it’s a valid concern. However, the Bechdel Test isn’t the end all, be all test for female representation in film. I also Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Sexy Lamp Test concurrently. The Sexy Lamp Test is simple: if you can replace a female character with a sexy lamp and still get the same plot, maybe you should go back and rewrite those characters. Mako Mori may not interact with any other women in the Shatterdome on screen, but she is a central part of Pacific Rim’s plot. Replace her with a sexy lamp and Raleigh doesn’t get back in the pilot seat nor does Gipsy Danger win the day against Otachi.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Godzilla. There are three major female characters in Godzilla and on top of not interacting with each other, it feels like there’s not a whole lot of reason for them to be there. Ford’s wife Elle mostly sits around and waits for him to come back, even keeping herself in danger to wait on him instead of getting the hell out of dodge with her son. Replace her with a sexy lamp and you can easily change all of Ford’s motivation for getting home to his son. The only part where it would be hard to replace her with a lamp is when she hands her son over to her co-worker instead of going with him. Mom of the year, everybody. I guess it was Elizabeth Olson prepping herself to be Wanda Maximoff.

Dr. Graham keeps being presented as Dr. Serizawa’s partner, but she often comes across more as an assistant to him more than anything else. She has a few lines of exposition, but I feel like if you gave her lines to Serizawa, you still got the same movie. Which is disappointing because I would have loved to have seen more of a kaiju studying lady scientist.

I guess you couldn’t replace Joe’s wife Sandra with a lamp, but her whole character was basically set up to die and motivate Joe to find out what really happened the day she died. She may not be a sexy lamp, but she’s certainly the woman in the fridge.

I DEMAND MORE FOR LADY SCIENTISTS IN FILM. [freshnessmag.com]

I DEMAND MORE FOR LADY SCIENTISTS IN FILM. [freshnessmag.com]

5.) At the end of the day, there’s not a whole lot of diversity – You know, for a film that starts in the Philippines and Japan and features a monster created by three Japanese men, there’s not a lot of Asians in the main cast. In fact, the only one is Ken Watanabe. Even San Francisco, a city with a high Asian population, looked pretty white. I’m glad Bryan Cranston was there and the acting was well done for the most part, but would it have really killed the studio to have some people of color coming together to assess the MUTO threat?

At least the two black men we see on screen don’t die horribly. In fact, one of them was sensible enough to bypass a police blockade and drive a schoolbus full of children over the Golden Gate Bridge before it collapsed. In fact, I think that bus driver was the smartest guy in this film. Four for you, dude!

Still, it was beautifully shot and when the monsters were on screen, it was amazing. Especially the mating ritual between the MUTOs and Godzilla just being his badass King Kaiju self. It’s a good dramatic popcorn flick for yelling at the screen. Give it a shot. You might enjoy it.

Or go watch Pacific Rim again. That’s cool too.

YEAH. [ghostlittle.com]

YEAH. [ghostlittle.com]

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Posted by on May 17, 2014 in Film

 

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Find me in the Drift: A Pacific Rim review

There’s a rather infamous Guillermo del Toro quote from about three years ago when Scott Pilgrim vs. The World came out. That quote was, “Anyone that didn’t see this is a motherfucker.” He even signed a fan’s blu ray with that.

That’s generally how I feel about anyone who picked other films to watch this past weekend besides Pacific Rim. Because it probably was the most fun I’ve had at the movies since Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Yes, it was even more fun than Cabin in the Woods.

Some SPOILERS exist below the picture, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum. I really do want to encourage people to see this film since it’s pretty much the best summer blockbuster to come out in a while.

Striker Eureka reporting in!

When Pacific Rim opens, we’re right on board the exposition train. The first ten minutes or so of the film get the basics of this universe out of the way. The kaiju, the Jaeger program and how they are viewed, and our introduction to Marshall Stacker Pentecost (played by Idris Elba) and Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam), who are two of our three perspective characters. This part could have been boring or rushed, but the way its played off by showing the hero worship of the Pan Pacific Defense Corps and then quickly contrasting it with the new reality of the ever evolving kaiju, we come to a better understanding of the drastic shift five years later.

The intro we’re given for the film also gives us an intro the beautiful balance this film has: it manages to be cerebral and emotional while still giving plenty of the robot/monster beat ’em up that we were promised. del Toro created this wonderfully lush universe with strong, interesting characters. I felt more drawn in and intrigued in this universe than I do for most TV shows, and I was only there for two hours and eleven minutes.

Highway to the Danger DriftAfter the intro, the film splits off into two plots that weave with each other and come together in the end. The main plot is Raleigh’s return to piloting the Jaeger Gipsy Danger five years after the death of his brother and co-pilot Yancy. Co-pilots are very important in the world of Pacific Rim since the neural load for piloting a jaeger is too much for one person to handle for very long. Two hemispheres of the brain. Two pilots sharing memories and thoughts in space known as the Drift. That’s how it works. However, each pilot team has to be compatible with each other in order for it to work. This leads to a lot of sibling teams (such as the Wei Tang triplets of the Crimson Typhoon), father and son (Chuck and Herc Hansen of Striker Eureka), and possible lovers (Aleksis and Sasha Kaidanovsky of Cherno Alpha).

This is where the relationship of Raleigh and his new co-pilot Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) becomes super interesting. It is very obvious from the moment they meet that there’s a connection between the two that makes them drift compatible. It could have been so easy for them to become lovers in some point of the film. I kind of expected it due to how often that comes true. But no, it was left perfectly open ended and that made so happy. Could they become lovers? Maybe. Could they just be best friends who just found each other? Perhaps. And that was awesome because platonic male/female friendships are so rare in film. Usually, that connection you feel meeting someone for the first time is often written off as sexual or romantic in films. It’s refreshing to see that two people can be close without making out at the end.

Of course, her relationship with Raleigh is the start of a mile long essay I could write about Mako Mori. If anyone tells me she wasn’t strong, I want to ask if we watched the same film. Mako was smart, skilled, and a pure natural at piloting. However, she was ruled by emotions for better or worse and mixed in with her lack of experience, it made her vulnerable and human. Mixed in with the respect and love she has for her commanding officer and father figure, it made her feel less like a “strong woman” and more like an actual complicated human. There’s a great Tumblr post by MadLori about writing interesting women vs. strong women that sums up how I feel about Mako Mori. Would have I liked to have seen more women in this film? Oh hell yes. But having a female character that’s complicated and interesting instead of being just “strong” is a good start for me.

"It's not obedience. It's respect."

Then, of course, there’s the magnificent and extremely complicated Marshall Stacker Pentecost. Gods bless Idris Elba. Gods bless him for making Stacker be able to walk in a room and demand attention and respect. Gods bless him for being cool under pressure, but still vulnerable enough for us to see that Mako is his heart and that like any good father has a hard time letting his little girl go. And gods bless him for making that “Canceling the Apocalypse” speech the coolest thing ever instead of cheesy as hell. Because it could have been, but it wasn’t. And bless the casting directors for picking him instead of Tom Cruise for the part.

The second plot of the film deals with the science division of the PPDC trying to find a There is no Pepe Silvia!way to end the Kaiju attacks. Mostly with Charlie Day’s hysterical turn as Dr. Newton Geizler. Seriously. With a manic energy that reminded me of Jeff Goldblum, Doc Brown, and all four Ghostbusters, Newt was a legitimately funny character with the genius chops to prove why he was working for the PPDC in the first place. Mixed in with his delightfully antagonistic relationship with fellow scientist Herman Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) and his journey to find the mysterious and eccentric black market dealer Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman), it was fair to say that Newt stole the show. Well, Chau did a little as well, but Newt took it right back. I would see a whole movie of Day and Perlman being exasperated by each other in their own unique ways.

But with all this talk of characters, you’re probably wondering if I forgot about the robots punching the giant sea monsters. The answer is no, I didn’t. Every fight scene in this film is a giant love letter to giant monster films and giant robot anime. I had a big, doofy smile on my face watching the penultimate fight between Gipsy Danger and Otachi in Hong Kong and was on the edge of my seat in the finale, waiting to see if the humans would come out on top. If the whole film really had just been these giant robots punching vicious inter-dimensional undersea lizards to death, I still would have been satisfied with the film.

With a diverse cast (again, props to del Toro for putting the “Pan” in “Pan Pacific Defense Corps” and not making everyone white americans), amazingly done fight scenes, and a masterfully told story with great characters, Pacific Rim will probably be the most amount of fun you’ll have at the movies for the next few years. I left the theater feeling like a kid in a theme park wanting to go on the ride again. I want all the stories about this universe, but I mostly just want to watch it again.

Though, I will admit, after a week of playing Portal and Portal 2 in my downtime, I did expect the Jaeger AI to be a bit more passive aggressive. Or at least have a slow clap processor.

brb taking this to the atmosphere

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2013 in Film

 

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